It may be hard to believe, as you eye the following three pages, resplendent as they are with life and beauty, that Sue Leahy wasn’t much of a gardener until she got hooked on native plants 12 years ago. ¶ But today, her yard—both front and back—is home to nearly 200 species of plants, nearly all of them native to the Midwest. An advocate for sustainable gardening, Sue serves on the board of Wild Ones St. Louis, a nonprofit that seeks to restore and establish native plant communities. She is also passionate about education. That made her decision to open her garden to hundreds of visitors during the 2019 Sustainable Backyard Tour easy. ¶ Sue is drawn to natives for many reasons, she says, including their extensive root systems, which hold soil and slow water runoff, and their ability to attract birds, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators to her yard. ¶ That wildlife is what transformed Sue from an uninformed sometime gardener into an evangelist for natives: “I like the wildlife the plants have brought to the backyard—the birds, butterflies, and bees are what I’m all about. I’m not doing this because I like to garden.” ¶ Last summer, at Design STL’s request, Sue welcomed photographer Greg Rannells to her Brentwood home. He captured the life cycle of the garden in three phases, from high summer to early fall. ¶ “I enjoy the plants, don’t get me wrong, but the plants are the means to the end,” says Sue. “I’m trying to do my little part to improve the overall health of the planet, because God knows it needs help.”
WHAT’S JUMPING IN JULY?
In the Leahy garden, it all started with a stream pond and waterfall. After their installation, in 2007, toads began appearing in the springtime, singing and laying their eggs. Sue enjoyed watching the tadpoles and decided that she wanted to attract more wildlife. So she and her husband, Andy Leahy, planted a butterfly garden, although there was no real master plan for the backyard. Then she attended a lecture by entomologist Doug Tallamy on the importance of natives in biodiversity. During his talk, Sue turned to her husband and whispered, “We’re not done.”
Each year, the Leahys have chosen to tackle one big project—including the rain gardens, in 2009 and 2013; the rebuilding of the pond, in 2013; and the installation of a butterfly garden, in 2007. Andy has done nearly all of the hardscaping: building stone walls, setting walkway pavers, finding the stone bench, and rebuilding the pond in 2013. “He says, ‘Sue plans and I do,’ and that’s about right,” she says, laughing. “I could not have done this without him.” Sue acknowledges that the work they did in the early years was substantial, but it’s paid off. These days, she does a minimal amount of weeding and trimming to keep the walkways clear and the edges of her beds orderly. The stone bench is a favorite spot for watching butterflies, bees, and birds.
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IN GOOD TIME
With the help of interior designer Robert Idol, a Kirkwood couple creates a home that pays homage to the past, yet feels just right for their modern young family.
"Food Raconteur” Ashok Nageshwaran wants to tell you a story.
The Right Move
New shops and showrooms bring exciting opportunities for local designers, makers, and arts organizations to sell their wares to home enthusiasts here and everywhere.
Painter and gardener Lauren Knight branches out.
Chris Mower of White Stable Farms discovered the Japanese style of gardening in Italy. Now, he’s bringing it to St. Louis.
Letters, icons, and illustrations that speak in a hand-drawn language
AUDRA's New Digs
Audra Noyes, of the Saint Louis Fashion Fund Incubator’s first class, opens an atelier in Ladue.
A background in sculpture trained artist Aly Ytterberg to see objects more fully.
A Modern Story
How a little log cabin went from being a home to a guest house
Cut from the Same Cloth
“Turkey Tracks” is a 19th-century quiltmaking pattern that has the appearance of little wandering feet. Patterns like the tracks, and their traditions and myths, have been passed down through the generations, from their frontier beginnings to today, where a generation of makers has embraced the material as a means of creating something new. Olivia Jondle is one such designer. Here, she’s taken an early turkey track-pattern quilt, cut it into various shapes, and stitched the pieces together, adding calico and other fabric remnants as needed. The result is a trench coat she calls the Pale Calico Coat. Her designs are for sale at The Rusty Bolt, Jondle’s small-batch fashion company based in St. Louis. —SAMANTHA STEVENSON
PLAYTIME, DREAMY WORLD AND TREASURES
Each composition Sue Miller paints has specific technical goals to enhance the overall vision
We asked a group of voyagers about their vessel’s batteries and their future battery plans
A BETTER WAY TO READ THE SIGNS OF LAMENESS
Equine lameness can be difficult to detect, but a study from England confirms the reliability of a relatively new tool for identifying subtle signs of musculoskeletal pain in horses.
AS SHE BEGINS HER 19TH SEASON IN THE WNBA, THE SEATTLE STORM’S SUE BIRD RECALLS HER EARLY DAYS IN THE LEAGUE, WHAT IT’S BEEN LIKE IN THE WUBBLE AND WHY SHE WORKS SO HARD TO MAKE THE GAME BETTER FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS.
PLAYTIME, DREAMY WORLD AND TREASURES
First Fiction 2020
In our twentieth annual roundup of the summer’s best debut fiction, Lauren Groff, Bryan Washington, Paul Lisicky, Sue Monk Kidd, and Sarah Gailey introduce first books by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips, Jean Kyoung Frazier, Corinne Manning, Megha Majumdar, and John Fram.
At Sue's School of Dance, the show still went on
And it’s still going on—at home
Two sailors with a thirst for voyaging
My First Cat
First Cats. We all have that special very first cat—the one that we had as a child, or perhaps the first one when we had a home of our own. Maybe one found us, and we hadn’t realized that we needed a cat until then. Or perhaps this special cat was a first rescue, first pedigreed cat or first show cat. These are the stories of some of those special cats.